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Jesse Jackson spearheads debate on election demands

Rev Jackson speaks at the Election Forum in parliament on Friday

Top UK politicians joined US civil rights icon Rev Jesse Jackson in demanding a new politics than embraced Britain’s Black communities.

Rev Jackson addressed an ‘election forum’ in the House of Commons last Friday, ahead of the anticipated launch of a Black Manifesto which will set out which policies best tackle race disadvantage.

The afternoon conference was also addressed by MPs Keith Vaz, David Lammy, Dawn Butler and Simon Hughes, and Baroness Ros Howells.

Earlier in the day Rev Jackson, a guest of Equanomics UK and the Roots Research Centre, had launched a voter registration billboard poster for Operation Black Vote.

The two-time US presidential candidate – who heads the campaigning organisation Rainbow PUSH coalition – began his latest visit in London before visiting Birmingham, Leicester and Cambridge.

The election forum is the last stage in a process of launching the Black Manifesto. Chapters covering every subject area have been written by a kaleidoscope of organisations, and Friday’s meeting was a chance to debate several critical questions, such as the merits of US-style Affirmative Action, before publication.

Rev Jackson urged delegates to think locally and globally at the same time, adding that leaders like Nelson Mandela and Kwame Nkrumah worked ‘in the trenches’ to bring about change, as well as adopting a high profile.

‘Freedom gets us in, but equality gets us up. Freedom was not our mission. Freedom was the pre-requisite for equality.

He added: ‘Our votes matter. You can determine the leadership in this country. You can win additional seats. You have the power to change the course of Britain. You will become the new majority, because our ideas are bigger than our numbers.’

Rev Jackson said that the forthcoming Black Manifesto would go “a long way toward educating and empowering communities, and presenting a clear agenda and recommendations for government action to address the structural inequalities that persist in the UK.”

The Manifesto, entitled “What Price Inequality?”, is expected to be published in the next few weeks.

Many delegates were critical of moves by the UK government to roll-back race equality laws, and although the consensus view was that stronger legislation was needed to overcome entrenched prejudice in the workplace, some anxieties remain about Black workers being labelled as only achieving their position because of their colour.

However the election forum chairperson, David Weaver, received applause as he said that some people will always make that accusation regardless of the obvious talent of the Black employee.

He said: ‘The reason why we’re having this debate is because the best people aren’t getting the jobs. The reason why there are so few Black chief executives is because you don’t “look” like a chief executive [in some people’s eyes].’

There was also debate about the nature of the democratic system, and how it needed reform to make it more inclusive.

Brent South MP Dawn Butler said that the political classes too often overlooked the youth vote because older people were proportionately more likely to vote. Old Southwark and Bermondsey MP Simon Hughes added that voting needed to be made much easier by being able to vote anywhere in the country, as long as voters can prove who they are.

Omar Khan, a senior researcher at the think-tank The Runnymede Trust, criticised the lack of access to bank services in areas of highest deprivation, and the higher concentration of ATMs in those neighbourhoods which charged for withdrawing cash.

There was a need for a ‘better banking’ campaign, according to Toby Blume, chief executive of the Urban Forum. ‘We’ve spent £150m on financial inclusion, but we still don’t know where the financial exclusion is’, he added.

‘We’re the only country in Western Europe that does not have any cap on interest rates charged by lenders. So people have the choice between illegal loan sharks, and have threats of their knees being done in, and people charging 1,000 percent quite legally.

One member of the audience, Amit Popat, a health manager from Essex, said that there needed to be greater penalties for public services who were found guilty of discriminating in their service provision.

Campaigner and political columnist for The Voice newspaper, Lee Jasper, concluded by saying that in the face of potentially huge cuts in public services, the Black community was going to need to ‘stick together.’

Rev Jackson embraces MP Dawn Butler (pic: Delroy Constantine-Simms)

With Baroness Ros Howells and Lee Jasper (pic: Delroy Constantine-Simms)

Delegates at the Election Forum

Contributors to the Black Manifesto pose with Rev Jackson

Viv Ahmun listens to Rev Jackson (pic: Delroy Constantine-Simms)

Rev Jackson embraces David Weaver, as Keith Vaz MP looks on.

By Lester Holloway



One Response

  1. God is doing a new thing..even as He said…We dont think it bad that we are excluded He has already said count it all joy..when they exclude you.

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